SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Possession was huge in Saturday's Top 10 men's lacrosse matchup between No. 6 Maryland and No. 9 Notre Dame, and the Terps' Charlie Raffa was the difference.
Raffa dominated the faceoff circle, winning 20 of 24 draws, and the offense came from Connor Cannizzaro, who scored three fourth-quarter goals, and Mike Chanenchuk, who notched three first-half goals, to help Maryland to a 12-8 victory.
The victory gave Maryland the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title in its final season in the league. The Terps (10-2) claimed the No. 1 seed in next week's ACC tournament in Chester, Pa., while the Fighting Irish (6-5) will be the No. 4 seed. The teams will meet again at 7:30 p.m. Friday at PPL Park in a semifinal that was set regardless of Saturday's outcome.
The game also held importance for Notre Dame's NCAA tournament chances. The Irish are on the bubble and missed an opportunity to burnish their resume. The Terps, meanwhile, are likely to get a berth regardless of how they do in the ACC tournament.
After Notre Dame scored four straight second-half goals to tie the game, 8-8, early in the fourth quarter, Joe LoCascio got his second of the day for Maryland with 8:51 to play.
Cannizzaro made it a two-goal game 1:07 later, added his second goal of the game with 1:35 to play, and threw his third into an empty net 19 seconds later to salt it away.
Raffa made those possessions happen by winning every late draw to keep the Irish at bay.
"We didn't have the ball again," Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan said of his team's stalled comeback effort. "I don't think we had a six-on-six possession after that point [when the game was tied]. You can't play the whole game at one end of the field."
Corrigan confirmed that Raffa was the difference in the game.
"He faced off every time for them and he kicked our butts," Corrigan said. "It was 20-4 [in faceoffs]. That's about as dominant as a performance can be."
Henry West and Matt Rambo also scored two goals apiece for Maryland, which improved to 110-9 since 2002 when it scores 10 or more goals in a game.
Matt Kavanagh had two goals and four assists for Notre Dame, and Conor Doyle (Gilman) added two goals for the Irish, who averaged a little more than 39 shots per game coming in but was outshot by Maryland 40-21. The margin in the first quarter was 9-2.
Maryland began the second half with nearly six minutes of continuous possession and took a four-goal lead on West's second of the day. Notre Dame got back within two goals on back-to-back scores 44 seconds apart as the third quarter wound down.
"Their team is so good; you know they're going to put stress on you and create opportunities," Maryland coach John Tillman said. "You know they're going to make a run. You're just trying to hold them off."
After the Irish tied it on Doyle's second of the game with 11:36 to play, Tillman used a timeout to regroup, telling his team to shake off the Irish run and worry about what was about to happen.
Three minutes later, West's shot banged off a post and back out to LoCascio, who sidestepped a defender and fired in the eventual game-winner.
"I think we were pretty fortunate there," Tillman said. "We just missed one, and the ball could have bounced anywhere. They could have gotten it, maybe gotten into transition, so I think we were pretty fortunate to pick up the ball."
This was the first matchup between the schools since Notre Dame beat Maryland in the 2010 NCAA tournament quarterfinals, and it marked the ACC regular-season finale for both teams.
It was also the only ACC regular-season meeting between the schools before Maryland leaves for the Big Ten next season.
Maryland jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first three minutes of the game on goals by West and Chanenchuk before Notre Dame's initial possession.
Chanenchuk finished with three of Maryland's six first-half goals, including a rifle shot while drifting to his right with 5.7 seconds left before halftime. Raffa won 9 of11 first-half faceoffs.
"When you look at the stats, Charlie definitely gave us an advantage," Tillman said. "We got some possessions back, especially early, that helped us get into a rhythm. They're so good on offense and defense that it really is important to get as many possessions as you can."
Notre Dame's leading scorer, Kavanagh, notched three first-half assists for the Irish, who struggled through a 14-minute stretch of the first 30 minutes without a shot on goal.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun